To be continued (we hope)

I tried to add a final photo to the Ironbridge blog, only to be told my storage space (all 13 Gb of it) was full. Not that I had had any prior warning of this … . It seems as if I can only add more storage space by upgrading to a site which costs me about £15 a month (as opposed to £10 a year). Alternatively we have to do something clever by changing server, but that will change the web address, or start a new blog (northernvicar2 perhaps) which will also change the web address. Whatever I choose to do will no doubt take time, effort, need the (conflicting) advice of my children and others, and add to my grey hairs. In the meantime, I will continue to holiday, continue to photo churches, write up the 8 that are waiting – and you, dear reader, can look back over my past posts – or read my wife at or my daughter at

Hopefully I will be back – if the blog disappears from where you expect it to be, try looking at and I’ll ensure the right link is there.

A man called Joseph Campbell is supposed to have said “Computers are like Old Testament gods. Lots of rules, and no mercy”.

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Ironbridge, Shropshire – St Luke

The other reason for a holiday in Shropshire is an exhibition at Coalbrookdale Gallery “To check the tide of prejudice: John Cooke Bourne and the London & Birmingham Railway” – website. I wrote an essay for my York Railway Course on this early railway artist, and met Matt Thompson, the curator of this exhibition, last time I came here (October 2012). It was an excellent exhibition, although only one room. There was some of Carmichael’s early work I had never seen, some beautiful doodles of workmen and their animals, the L&B lithographs and some watercolours that went with them. This is a watercolour of the Camden engine shed – I purchased the lithograph of this a few years ago and it hangs in our lounge at Hexham.


We drove down into Ironbridge itself and eventually found a parking space. I went for a walk along the Severn and under the iron bridge.

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august a 111august a 112august a 117Then I climbed lots and lots of steps to St Luke’s church – grid reference SJ672035. The steps even go under the churchyard!

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The church was locked. The noticeboard tells me they are part of the Shropshire Churches Tourism Group and I can be sure of a warm welcome! It also has a “What’s On” poster … for June. Later I went on the Shropshire Churches Tourism Group which has lots of churches to visit, and in another church I picked up a very good colour guide that the Trust has done. St Luke’s should be open. I also went on the Shropshire Historic Churches Trust website – – the homepage which has a picture of the inside of a church and a note “click on the chancel screen to enter the site”. If you are not a regular churchgoer you probably don’t know what the chancel screen is – which is hardly welcoming.

How sad that in the middle of a tourist village the church is locked and bolted.

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Llanfair Caereinion, Powys – St Mary the Virgin

I start my holiday on my birthday (Monday 3 August) and we arranged to meet Roger and Julie (Roger is my Julie’s cousin) at the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. It is a long way from Ponteland. I set the alarm for 0545, but Julie was awake earlier, so we were away by 0537 (I remembered to turn off the alarm). We entered Wales soon after 0900. Through Welshpool, and we were at Llanfair Caereinion and my favourite railway by 1030. What a wonderful place to spend my birthday. Before we went for a train ride, we walked up into the village to visit the parish church – grid reference SJ104065. The leaflet and diocesan website says the church’s website is at, but that takes me to a plumbing and heating blog. There is a full archaeological report here – it even gives you the 10 digit grid reference … can you stand the excitement?

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I was glad that Roger was pushing my Julie up the hill, but the access into the church was straightforward (if a little noisy as we opened both doors and pushed our way in!). The suggestion is that Christians have been worshipping here for 1,500 years. The earliest recorded church is C12, and this Victorian church was consecrated in 1868. The porch remains from the earlier church.

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The font dates from about 1200 – apparently the octagonal shape represents the seven days of creation and the eighth day of new beginnings. During the Commonwealth period (1649-1660) it was taken to the Wynnstay, an inn over the road, and used as a feeding trough.

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A nice welcome table, and the bi-lingual bible reminds us we have crossed the border! The St Asaph diocesan magazine (June/July) had some good theology about relationships, marriage and gay marriage – you can read the whole magazine at the Diocesan website. Apparently the Aug/Sep 2015 issue has articles on whether our country is a Christian country.

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The reredos, altar and altar rail were given in memory of those who died in the two world wars. It is a lovely work in oak. The effigy in the chancel is of Sir Dafydd ap Gruffydd – the leaflet describes him as “a local medieval knight”!

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Some nice glass – a lot of Victorian, and some modern work. I liked the one of the Archangel Michael. Some 1970s glass – the Annunciation and an Emmanuel window.

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On the north side of the church is a Holy Well. You can never accuse my blog of being narrow and parochial – you find out more about the well at the wonderfully named “Megalithic Portal” website – this is a website that gives the latitude and longitude of each well (that’s where I went wrong!!). They give it a 4 for accessibility – too many steps. We have been having problems with the greenness of our pond in Hexham – ours is not as bad as this one! Healings have apparently taken place here into the C20, and the well was restored in 1990.

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There is a photo in the church of a very young Prince Charles visiting the pool. I met him several times when he was Patron of the Tower appeal at St Edmundsbury. On one occasion he was working with the builders, and getting his suit covered in mortar. “Is his Royal Highness all right?” enquired the Dean of the Prince’s Private Secretary. “His Royal Highness is quoting The Goons“, came the reply. “When his Royal Highness is quoting The Goons we know his Royal Highness is happy.”

august a 008We had enjoyed Llanfair church, but it was time for a train ride. Back to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway – website – which opened in 1903. It is a 2 foot 6 inch gauge railway running the nine miles or so to Welshpool – up and down dale, round the fields, and across the Banwy river. The original locos, Earl and Countess,  are still in charge, and the staff/volunteers are lovely. I am a member of this line, so I get a free ride and money off in the gift shop. I like Birthdays!

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Cullercoats – St George

I am not a person who does the seaside. It was a gorgeous day (16 July 2015) when I headed to the North Sea coast for a meeting at Cullercoats, and we could have spent the afternoon on the beach. I could have done the Cullercoats Art trail – here – indeed, that would be good for my waistline and my intellect. (You will be glad to know I avoided the burger stall and the candy-floss stall in the car park next door). My friend John Wilson Carmichael was one of the artists here – this is his “Cullercoats looking towards Tynemouth” painting (and my photo).


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St George’s church – with its website at – was built in the 1880s when the sixth Duke of Northumberland planned it in memory of his late father, George, the fifth Duke. The foundation stone was laid in 1882 and the church dedicated two years later. The architect was John Loughborough Pearson. Those who read my blog know we came across his work at Truro Cathedral. He also designed Brisbane Cathedral – northernvicar goes Antipodean? Born on 5 July 1817 he was a native of Durham and, when he died on 11 December 1897, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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Lovely doors – in to the church, and into the vestry.

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This church is 98 feet long and 55 feet wife, the height to the underside of the vaulting is 42 feet. It is the sort of building where you look up and go wow – in Truro we saw that Pearson wanted architecture that brought you to your knees.

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The Baptistry windows were designed by Leonard Evetts and depict scenes from the life and legends of St Cuthbert. My photos do not do justice to them. I did not photo the Kempe windows – he visited in 1906 to outline a scheme for the glazing of all the windows.

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The lights are rather lovely. I liked the dragon on the kneeler, and the puffin.

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The organ was built by Thomas Christopher Lewis (1833-1915). It has 26 speaking stops spread over two manuals and pedals, and is the only unaltered Lewis organ remaining in the Diocese of Newcastle. You can buy a CD of Daniel Cook playing it from Priory Records – it is regularly played by visiting recitalists.

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There is a War Memorial outside the church, and another inside – the one inside hardly does justice to them all.

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St George’s is rather higher up the candle than most of our Diocesan churches – so here are the tools of their trade. Note the “Smoking” notice.

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Falstone – Methodist URC


july b 156I went back to the Old School, and had a look at the 1897 Jubilee Fountain. There are lovely yellow irises, and the URC/Methodist church is just down the road, and also open. The chapel is at NY723875.

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Here is the Circuit website. It is well planned in that the chapel has a fortnightly service, on the weeks the Anglicans don’t. This is a Presbyterian church dating to 1807, with the tower added in 1876.

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I hate the plastic chairs, the pink paint is wonderful and what a marvellous chandelier – I want one!

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They have done an excellent job of putting a kitchen at the back, and using the old furniture.

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They too have some war memorials.

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It was nice to find the chapel open – I like Falstone.

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Falstone – St Peter

july b 155We don’t often drive right up to Kielder Water and this part of Northumberland, and it is a while since we have been to the Old School in the village which is now a café – website. I left Julie and went for a wander. St Peter’s church – NY724874 – is beautifully kept and the graveyard is immaculate.

july b 135Bits of Saxon cross and other interesting inscriptions have been found nearby, but nothing is known of a pre-Reformation chapel. The church website  – says   “In 1650  parliamentary commissioners recommended that ‘the Chappell at Falleston be rebuilded and made the Parish Church thereof’, but this was not done. From 1709 onwards rebuilding was undertaken and the Chapel used by the Presbyterians. A new ‘English Chapel’ was built before 1725 within the graveyard of the present church, and probably just south of the existing church.  In 1824, on the advice of a Greenwich Hospital agent, an entirely new church was built at a cost of £1,040 together with a ‘handsome rectory-house,’ for a further £1,000 in which the first Rector took up residence. Archdeacon Singleton reported a few years later that the Rector ‘had seen some service at sea, became restless, expensive, drunken, embarrassed, and eventually insane in his retirement’. However his curate, Samuel Kennedy, a ‘respectable old non-graduate’ who had ‘neither the means nor the taste for domestic and horticultural nearness’ was on call to help with the ‘service once on Sundays and communion four times a year’. I like the idea of a “restless and expensive” Rector – to say nothing of a “respectable old non-graduate” who was no gardener.

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The church was re-seated and renovated in 1879 but “on the night of Sunday 26th November 1882 in consequence of overheating of the flue of the warming apparatus, the floor ignited. Fortunately the fire was discovered, not, however until it had scorched the ceiling, but by the prompt action of the villagers, it was extinguished before very material damage was done.” Would you believe there was another fire in 1890, and this one also damaged the church. It was rebuilt by 1892.  The 1824 church was by John and Benjamin Green, the restoration by Plummer and Burrell – Pevsner tells me it is Plummer and Burrell, but tells me no more. A google finds me plumbers in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania!

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I like the way the organist has their own cage, and what on earth is this piece of stone by the pulpit? Answers on a postcard please!

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Last year they did some work and got a proper war memorial organised – before it had apparently been a paper list. Information about all of those who died is in the book “In Silent Fortitude” by Alan Grint, details here. It is also worth reminding ourselves of the NE War Memorials Project site – website.. There is a report about the dedication, and a full list of names,

july b 141july b 142Well done Falstone-ites. Thank you for a lovely church.

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Byrness – St Francis of Assisi

july b 111We continued north up the A68 and drove past Byrness church – NT771024. We turned round by the Forestry houses a mile or so further on. A very large timber lorry was parked in the laybye. After my recent incidents with other vehicles my wife asks, in her most solicitous voice, “you have seen that lorry, haven’t you”. We drove back to the church. It is locked. A posh noticeboard directs walkers on the Pennine Way to collect a church key at the Byrness Hotel across the road. The building that I think was the Byrness Hotel is looking very locked and unloved. Another key is held by the Forest View Hotel, which is back by the timber lorry in the village. “You have seen that lorry, haven’t you”. The blog of the Team Vicar – here – says they restocked the noticeboard in June, which suggests the Byrness Hotel closure is recent. He also says they are trying to leave the church open, which would be marvellous. He may be interested in the recent comments about “time locks” on Three (locked) Huntingdonshire churches on this blog.

The church of St Francis of Assisi was built in 1796, and was paid for by the Revd Dutens, vicar of Elsdon. He provided for a resident curate, who had to teach 12 poor children from the village free of charge. I wonder how many children the village has now? Pevsner describes the church as “of tiny dimensions” – the team website says it measure 8.5 x 5.5 metres. It also says that the dedication to St Francis is modern – 1978. The church was remodelled and partly rebuilt in 1884. It has a fortnightly service but, and I hope I don’t offend anyone, it feels a bit unloved – it needs a good clean, and a few days with the door wide open to get some fresh air in. Is there no one in the village who will open the door, put a kettle, tea, coffee and milk at the back (like we find at Alwinton) and make it a loved stopping point on the Pennine Way? I know how easy it is for me to make that suggestion – I am also aware that one of my churches is only open on a Sunday afternoon in the summer …

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We have a nice font, a memorial to a previous Vicar (did they do the stone and then someone demand they added his MA?), and a couple of War Memorials. Interesting how many people went from here to War. Nice floor tiles too.

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The most well-known thing in the church is the stained glass window which commemorates the 64 men, women and children who died during the construction of Catcleugh Reservoir 1984-1905. Their names are recorded  on a brass plaque nearby. To quote the church website: “The window depicts labourers who worked at Catcleugh – their clothing, tools and equipment – and a boy holding a water container. The landscape of the upper Rede valley, hills, rocks and plants, provides the backdrop although much of the area is now forested.  Of particular interest is the ‘loco’, the sturdy engine that plied the narrow-gauge railway specially built from Woodburn to Catcleugh, to pull the trucks carrying bricks, valves, pipework and domestic supplies to the workforce and their families, recruited from Newcastle and Gateshead, who were housed in hutted accommodation near the construction site. The window was designed and built by George Joseph Baguley & Sons whose stained glass studios were based in St Thomas’ Place, Newcastle upon Tyne. … Dated 1903, the Catcleugh window is unusual in that it was the first  commemorative window in the country to be paid for by subscriptions raised by a workforce and dedicated to a workforce, which is why St Francis became a place of pilgrimage for members of trade unions and the labour movement for many years.” Pevsner says it is “surely the only such [window] to illustrate a narrow-gauge steam railway” and several local guidebooks repeat this. Pevsner is wrong. Cadeby in Leicestershire has a window which commemorates the Reverend Teddy Boston – no, I won’t tell you more now, I will try and visit it this summer.

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There are some lovely photos of Catcleugh Reservoir at I can find no photos on the www about the building of the dam or its railway line – even on the website of the excellent Bellingham Heritage Centre, just down the road –  or on the Northumberland National Park – http://www.northumberland where most of the links seem to be broken. There is a workman’s cottage by the dam which I visited in July 2010 – these photos are from that visit (are you impressed I can find my photos from five years ago?). I know that one of my regular blog readers knows more about Catcleugh than most people, so I hope he might send me some links or a photo or two I can add.

july photos 230This should be a pdf with interior photos: july 2010

I had a wander round the churchyard – lovely. Then we returned the key – “You have seen that lorry, haven’t you”.

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Posted in Northumberland, Railway interest, World War 1 | 2 Comments